|Publication number||US8218074 B2|
|Application number||US 12/511,383|
|Publication date||Jul 10, 2012|
|Priority date||Jan 10, 2005|
|Also published as||US7584534, US20060281972, US20090284649|
|Publication number||12511383, 511383, US 8218074 B2, US 8218074B2, US-B2-8218074, US8218074 B2, US8218074B2|
|Inventors||Alfred A. Pease, Al Boehnlein, Tye Newman, Paul J. Eckhoff|
|Original Assignee||Perceptron, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (54), Classifications (21), Legal Events (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/480,329 filed on Jun. 30, 2006. The disclosure of the above application is incorporated herein by reference.
The present disclosure relates generally to borescopes and video scopes.
Borescopes and video scopes for inspecting visually obscured locations are typically tailored for particular applications. For instance, some borescopes have been tailored for use by plumbers to inspect pipes and drains. Likewise, other types of borescopes have been tailored for use by mechanics to inspect interior compartments of machinery being repaired. Special features and functions associated with these applications have driven up the cost for these types of devices. Absent from the marketplace is a simplified, inexpensive and yet versatile inspection device which may be marketed to the general public.
The statements in this section merely provide background information related to the present disclosure and may not constitute prior art.
A remote inspection device is provided for inspecting visually obscured locations. The device is generally comprised of a imager housing and a display housing disposed on opposite ends of a flexible cable. An imaging device is embedded in an outwardly facing end of the cylindrical imager housing, such that the imaging device is able to capture an image of a viewing area proximate to the distal end of the flexible cable. One or more light sources also protrude from the outwardly facing end of the cylindrical imager housing along a perimeter of the imaging device such that the imaging device is recessed between the light sources. A display housing is coupled to the other end of the flexible cable and configured to be grasped by a user of the device. A display device supported by the display housing receives a video signal from the imaging device and converts the video signal to a video image.
Further areas of applicability will become apparent from the description provided herein. It should be understood that the description and specific examples are intended for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure.
The drawings described herein are for illustration purposes only and are not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure in any way.
The imager housing 14 is coupled to a distal end of the flexible cable 16. In the exemplary embodiment, the imager housing 14 is a substantially cylindrical shape that is concentrically aligned with the flexible cable 16. However, it is envisioned that the imager housing 14 may take other shapes. In any case, an outer diameter of the cylindrical imager housing 14 is preferably sized to be substantially equal to or less than the outer diameter of the flexible cable 16.
With reference to
In the exemplary embodiment, the imaging device 22 and lens assembly 23 provides a fixed focus at approximately four to ten inches from the end of the imager housing. However, it is envisioned that the inspection device 10 may provide an adjustable focus. For instance, a user adjusted focus mechanism 30 is shown in
With continued reference to
A transparent cap 26 encloses these components within the imager housing 14. For instance, the cap 26 may be made of an acrylic material that enables light to project from the LEDs into the viewing area and return from the viewing area to the imaging device. Other types of durable transparent material may be used in place of acrylic. In the exemplary embodiment, each of the protruding LEDs is encased by a nipple 27 formed in the cap 26. To sufficiently illuminate the viewing area, each LED should preferably project light proximate to the view angle of the imager at a 60 degree view angle away from the image housing 14. LEDs having such a view angle may be used. However, LED's having a 132 degree view angle provide a more inexpensive alternative. In this case, the ends of the nipples 27 may be curved to form a lens which focuses the light from the LEDs to a 60 degree view angle as shown in
In one exemplary embodiment, the imager housing 14 couples to the flexible cable 16 by way of a threaded sleeve 29 integrally formed at one end of the imager housing 14. The threaded sleeve 29 on the imager housing screws into a grooved portion from along an interior surface of a coupling formed on the distal end of the flexible cable. The sleeve and coupling each provide an axial passageway for a plurality of wires that are electrically connected between the circuit board in the imager housing and the display housing. The plurality of wires may or may not be further encased in a protective cable.
With reference to
In an exemplary embodiment, the imager housing provides an engagement area for the attachment 51 as shown in
In one exemplary embodiment, a threaded male connector 82 formed on the proximate end of the flexible cable 16 is used to couple the cable to the display housing 12 as best seen in
Operational aspects of the inspection device are better understood from a schematic provided in
In the exemplary embodiment, the power switch 75 is further operable to control the intensity of the LEDs. To do so, power is also supplied to an LED interface board 91. The LED interface board 91 in turn sends a control signal to the LEDs based on the setting of the power switch 75. As the dial is rotated further away from an ON position, the intensity of the LEDs is increased. In this way, the operator can adjust the illumination of the viewing area, thereby improving the quality of the acquired images. Alternative embodiments of the inspection device may employ other user actuated controls. For example, the inspection device may include controls for the contrast of the display device, on-screen display or for a zoom function of the imaging device.
Once powered on, the imaging device 22 begins capturing images and transmitting the image data as a video signal to a video decoder 92 residing on the interface board 74. The video decoder 92 decodes the video signal and passes it through another interface to the display device 73. The display device 73 is then operable to display the video images to the operator.
In the exemplary embodiment, the imager housing is connected by a four wire twisted pair cable to the display housing. Functions for each wire are specified as follows: a power wire for delivering electrical power to the imaging device, a video wire for transporting the captured image data (e.g., a NTSC signal) from the imager back to the interface board, a control signal for varying the intensity of the light source and a ground connection. It is envisioned that more or less wires may be needed to support different functionality.
In an alternative embodiment, the inspection device may provide an image self-righting feature. As the camera head is pushed into inspection areas, it may get twisted so that the images displayed to the operator are disoriented. To orientate the images, an accelerometer is placed in the imager housing. The accelerometer is operable to report the position of the camera head in relation to a sensed gravity vector. Given the position data and the image data, a microprocessor residing in the display housing can apply a known rotation algorithm (e.g., rotation matrix) to the image data. In this way, the image data is always presented upright to the operator.
In another aspect of this disclosure, the remote inspection device may be designed to be modular as shown in
For example, a detachable coupling between the imager housing and the flexible cable enables imager housings of varying sizes to be used with the same display housing. The flexibility allowed by the modularity of this device also allows the cost efficient manufacture of easily replaceable imager heads that could be fixed at any desired spherical orientation in regard to the central axis of the cable or the imager head. A first imager head 14′ may be constructed as described above with the imaging device orientated along the central axis of the imager head; whereas, a second imager head 14″ provides an imaging device orientated at 90 degrees to the central axis of the imager head. Imager heads have other orientations are also contemplated.
Likewise, a second detachable coupling between the display housing and the flexible cable enables the use of different types of cables while retaining the same imager housing. Depending on the application, cables may vary in length from 3 feet to more than 50 feet and may vary in diameter from less than an inch to a couple of inches in diameter. Moreover, different cables may have different flexibilities, stiffnesses, spring tensions, obedient cable properties, tape measure material similarities, fish-tape or fish-stick similarities, push-cable similarities, etc. It is envisioned that the remote inspections device may be sold as a kit having a display housing 12, at least one imager head 14 and a set of different cables having different constructs. Additional imager heads may be included in the kit or sold individually.
Given an adaptable display housing, users may configure the inspection device to meet their particular needs. For a first task, a first type of cable attachment along with a particular image head may be selected and coupled to the display housing. For a different task, the user may detach the image head and attach an image head which provides a different function. Alternatively, the user may also need to replace the cable attachment. In this case, the user further detaches the first type of cable attachment and attaches a second type of cable attachment having a different construct than the first type of cable attachment. For example, the second type of cable attachment may have a different length, diameter, or flexibility than the first type of cable attachment. The user then selects and attaches a suitable image head to the second type of cable attachment. In this way, the more expensive display housing may be configured with different and less expensive components tailored to a particular task.
To provide a sealed coupling, a cylindrical coupling 116 is also disposed on the distal end of the flexible cable 16. The cylindrical coupling 116 further provides an internal grooved portion 117 which mates with the threaded portion of the sleeve on the imager housing. To complete the coupling, the cylindrical coupling 116 is slid over the female connector and screwed onto the threaded portion of the sleeve, thereby encasing the electrical connection within the coupling. An O-ring 119 or other sealing component is preferably disposed between the inner surface of the cylindrical coupling and the outer surface of the flexible cable. A detachable coupling having a similar construction may be interposed between flexible cable and the display housing. Moreover, it is envisioned that other types of detachable couplings may be employed to achieve the modularity.
In an alternative embodiment, a secondary connector 120 may be interposed between the imager housing 14 and the flexible cable 16 as shown in
The following description is merely exemplary in nature and is not intended to limit the present disclosure, application, or uses.
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|U.S. Classification||348/376, 348/372, 348/374|
|Cooperative Classification||Y10T29/5313, Y10T29/49002, Y10T29/49004, A61B1/0615, A61B1/0676, A61B1/0684, G02B23/2476, A61B1/00087, A61B1/0051, A61B1/05, A61B1/00052|
|European Classification||A61B1/00E4H3, G02B23/24D, A61B1/06, A61B1/005B, A61B1/05, A61B1/00C7B8|
|Sep 12, 2012||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: INSPECTRON, INC., MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:PERCEPTRON, INC.;REEL/FRAME:028942/0168
Effective date: 20120830
|Sep 20, 2012||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: DR. HELMUT ROTHENBERGER HOLDING GMBH, AUSTRIA
Free format text: SECURITY AGREEMENT;ASSIGNOR:INSPECTRON, INC.;REEL/FRAME:029016/0842
Effective date: 20120830
|Sep 25, 2012||CC||Certificate of correction|
|Feb 4, 2013||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: INSPECTRON, INC., MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:PERCEPTRON, INC.;REEL/FRAME:029745/0282
Effective date: 20120830
|Dec 29, 2015||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4